Exercise Task Characteristics Influence Time Perception During Vigorous Exercise

Andrew R. Moore, Maddie Olson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The passage of time is observed subjectively, and changes rate based on attentional or physiological stimuli. Self-adjusted exercise typically leads to the experience that time is progressing more slowly than it really is, but only when intensity is sufficiently high. This study was designed to determine if high exercise intensity at a fixed work rate would lead to differences in subjective timing. Subjects (26 total; 17 men/ 9 women) completed a maximal exercise test on a Velotron cycle ergometer until volitional exhaustion. A time production task was completed at baseline prior to exercise, and during each 3-min stage. Heart rate (HR) was assessed continuously. Time perception ratio (actual time divided by perceived time) was compared at baseline, during light exercise (40 W), and during the first stage at which age-predicted HRmax was considered vigorous (76-90% HRmax), using a repeated-measures analysis of variance (ANOVA). The result of the ANOVA was significant, F1.63,39 = 6.19, p = 0.007, η2 = 0.21. Bonferroni-adjusted post-hoc comparisons showed that the time perception ratio was higher during vigorous exercise (1.21 ± 0.34) compared to baseline (1.06 ± 0.19; p = 0.028) and light (1.09 ± 0.27; p = 0.048) exercise. Unlike several similar studies finding that subjective time increases at higher exercise intensities, the results of this study indicate the opposite effect at a fixed vigorous-intensity work rate. The motivational nature of the task and unique attentional factors associated with it are likely explanations for the deviation from earlier reports.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-305
Number of pages17
JournalTiming and Time Perception
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2022


  • approach motivation
  • attentional gate model
  • cycling
  • pacemaker-accumulator model
  • time production

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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